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Graduate Courses in English and in Creative Writing

Spring 2012 (26 January – 18 May)


Poetry Writing II (Prof. P. Levin)

M 4:30-6:20pm


The Longer Works (Prof. J. Markus)

W 4:30-6:20pm


Poetic Forms (Prof. A. Levine)

T 4:30-6:20pm


Character Development (Prof. E. Brogger)

R 6:30-8:20pm


Milton (Prof. S. Zimmerman)  

M 6:30-8:20pm


Novel of Manners (Prof .P. Smith)

W 6:30-8:20pm


Unruly Bodies (Prof. K. Valerius)

T 6:30-8:20pm

(NB: The MFA in Creative Writing requires students to complete credits in English Literature; and the M.A. in English allows students up to one course in Creative Writing. Should you have any questions, contact the Graduate Directors of your individual program: for the MFA in Creative Writing, contact Erik Brogger; and for the M.A. in English Literature, contact Shari Zimmerman.)

M 4:30-6:20pm

Prof. Phillis Levin 

In this workshop we will concentrate on writing and revising new poems while studying essential elements of the craft. We will critique each other's work with an ear and an eye for problems and solutions, and problems as solutions – opportunities for risk, for the interplay of mystery, mastery, and discovery. Workshop participants will experiment with myriad ways of moving through a poem. As readers and writers we will consider various patterns and literary conventions, attending to the dynamic interaction of rhythm, line, stanza, syntax, rhetoric, image, idiom, and tone. We will also devote time to reading and discussing the work of published poets who deploy a broad range of poetic strategies that spur the development of voice and style.

CRWR 291F:  THE LONGER WORKS                                                                  
W 4:30-6:20pm

Prof. Julia Markus

A hands-on graduate seminar in long fiction for the writer interested in beginning a novel or working on a novel in process; writing a novella; or writing a series of interrelated long short stories.  The process of creating a “book,” from the first sentence to the completed manuscript, will be discussed, and students will explore such issues as daily working methods, the myth of writers’ block, and the protocol of submitting a manuscript for publication.  Your individual processes will be mined in a journal you will keep.  All work will be read and discussed in class, revised, and then handed in for the instructor’s editorial comments twice during the semester.  The entire revised manuscript (50 to 75 revised pages minimum) will be handed in at the end of the semester.   Attendance at our weekly meeting is compulsory. The writer will choose one novel by Alice McDermott to read by the end of February and to discuss in class in relation to his/her own development.   Alice McDermott will be reading at Hofstra on 29 February during common hour; you will have a chance to discuss issues of long fiction with the novelist, should you wish.  

CRWR 291K: POETIC FORMS  (CrWr Course on Craft)
T 4:30-6:20pm

Prof. Alice Levine

 “The best criticism, and it is uncommon, is of the sort that dissolves considerations of content into those of form.”  (Susan Sontag)

“It is not meters, but a meter-making argument that makes a poem.”  (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

A poem’s formal properties–its auditory qualities of rhythm, meter, and a variety of linguistic sound qualities (of which rhyme and alliteration are two of the most readily identifiable)–not only provide the shape and most immediate effects of the poet’s communication, but are the very qualities that constitute that communication as a poem.  Moreover, a poem’s formal qualities are the most overt expression of its genre (as sonnet, elegy, ode, villanelle, and so forth), which places the poem not only in a formal tradition but one that relates to content and context as well.

In this course we will analyze and consider the significance of the formal dimensions of poems in various genres.  We will study the historical development (in some cases transformation) of the sonnet, ode, elegy, and verse satire, among other genres and verse forms, from their classical and Renaissance origins through contemporary poetry.  We will focus on prosody and formal analyses, with a view to understanding how the most technical properties of a poem carry its unique meaning and effect.  Writing assignments will include both analytical studies and poetic imitations.

Selected bibliography:  Stuart Curran, Poetic Form and British Romanticism (1990); Annie Finch, ed., A Formal Feeling Comes: Poems in Form by Contemporary Women (1994); Paul Fussell, Poetic Meter and Poetic Form (1979); Harvey Gross, The Structure of Verse (1966).

(NB: this course may be used to satisfy the craft requirement in the MFA Program in Creative Writing.)

R 6:30-8:20pm

Prof. Erik Brogger

This workshop challenges the skills of the developing playwright who wishes to gain experience in the exploration of character in dramatic writing. Fundamental elements of play construction - action, thought, dialogue, and setting - remain vital components in this course; however, specific concentration will be placed on character research as we explore the many ways in which dramatic conflict may spring from overt and covert human needs. We will begin with a determination of what comprises a dramatic character and how it reveals itself through choices and other actions. In our readings, prompts and writing assignments we will examine character types - their traits and objectives - so that, by the conclusion of this course, we will have gained a deeper appreciation for character development, and an understanding of its relationship to other components of play construction. Texts will include Aristotle's Poetics, as well as selected essays and full-length plays. Classes will be run on a workshop format, allowing students the opportunity to hear their work read aloud and discussed in a constructive way. Students will produce a body of material - at least 50 pages - representing a long one-act or short full-length play. Each week, discussions will include responses to reading assignments of both plays and/or essays.  Throughout the course, students will read and critique each other's developing work. They will also confer individually with the instructor to monitor progress and address questions specific to their evolving project.

M 6:30-8:20pm

Prof. Shari Zimmerman

John Milton lived and wrote during a period in English history that witnessed the overturning and restoration of monarchy; fierce debates and bloody wars about the very meaning of liberty; vigorous (though hardly seamless) support of republicanism.  It is a period that also saw a dramatic rise in female-authored texts in print; an explosive increase in pamphlets circulating in the public sphere; and, for many, a growing separation of church and state.  Mindful of the historical moment in which Milton wrote, as well as the multiple contexts in which one might view his writing (only a couple of which I can include here), we shall study selections from his early poetry; several of the polemical tracts he composed during the 1640s and 50s (in which he argued, for example, not only for divorce or regicide, but also against the use of force in matters of conscience); as well as his late poetic achievements—Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes.  Discussion will range widely, moving as Milton moves, focusing (for example) on his treatments of kingship, tyranny, and revolution as well as gender, marriage and divorce; his sense of England as chosen (as well as) failing nation modeled on, and distinguished from Old Testament Israel and classical Rome; or his always creative engagement with—even radical recasting of—scriptural and classical precedent as well as established poetic form.  But, over the course of the semester, we shall consider as well questions regarding the canonical status of “Milton” into the 21st century and the ever-shifting reception of his writing.  For, to be sure, “Milton” has been “read,” “re-read,” and “misread” as proto-feminist and as misogynist, as anti-imperialist and as poet of empire, as radical revolutionary on the side of resistance and as social conservative for whom liberty was reserved for an elite, Protestant, and gender-specific few.  This—and more—will be on the table for discussion, a discussion informed throughout by matters that Milton’s texts raise and stage about the scene of reading, the play of interpretation, and the construction of meaning itself.  Requirements include a presentation, short critical responses, and a longer essay that is 15-20 pages in length. Individual research interests, thoughtful class participation, and submission of work-in-progress will be strongly encouraged.

(For the M.A. in English, this course may be used to satisfy the Shakespeare or Milton requirement or a pre-1800 requirement.  For the MFA in Creative Writing, this course may be used to satisfy the individual author requirement or the pre-1900 requirement.)

English 293I: NOVEL OF MANNERS                                                                    
W 6:30-8:20pm

Prof. Patricia Smith
The Novel of Manners is a subgenre comprising narratives in which the social and psychological interactions of individuals in society drive the plot.  As such, it offers little in the way of action and adventure; as a consequence, it is often dismissed as a "feminized" form.  While the novel of manners in English can be traced to such male authors as Henry Fielding and Samuel Richardson, female authors have since predominated the field.  This course will delineate the history of the novel of manners from the 18th century to the present, and will include some of the following authors: Henry Fielding, Fanny Burney, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Anthony Trollope, William Makepeace Thackeray, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Bowen, Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark, Ian McEwan, and Andrea Levy.  Discussion will focus on such issues as character motivation, social spaces, gender, social and economic class, sexuality, race, and nation.

T 6:30-8:20pm

Prof. Karyn Valerius 

This course focuses on representations of unusual bodies in nineteenth-century American literature. Readings will include Hawthorne, “The Birthmark” (1843) and The Marble Faun (1860); Julia Ward Howe, The Hermaphrodite (2004 [c. 1847]); William Wells Brown, Clotel (1853); Harriet Prescott Spofford, “The Amber Gods”(1860); Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills (1861); Louisa May Alcott, “Behind A Mask” (1866); Mark Twain, Puddin Head Wilson & These Extraordinary Twins (1894); Stephen Crane, The Monster (1898). A number of these texts portray characters who defy easy classification according to sex and gender or race and confound legal codes, social customs, and literary conventions. Collectively, these texts provide the opportunity to explore the relationship between a person’s physical body and his or her identity, to examine social and political inequalities rooted in the denigration of physical variation (such as racism, heterosexism and discrimination against people with disabilities), and to imagine alternative forms of community not based on exclusion.

(For both the MFA in Creative Writing and the MA in English, this course may be used to satisfy the pre-1900 requirement.)

WINTER 2012 (3-17 January, in London)

For information about our study abroad program in London, which is open to our graduate students, please click here; and be sure to contact the program's director, Dr. John DiGaetani via email.